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flecting the Colonial vicissitudes between dearth and plenty, we find eggs quoted at 10 sous an egg in a document of 1724; flour sold at 20 sous a pound in 1721 and 1722 (the latter year was especially known as year of famine); whereas in the last quarter of 1742 the plentiful stage is reflected by invoices of lace and silks, gold watches, jackets of luxury embroidered in gold and silver on backgrounds white, yellow, blue, and cherry. In 1737 there is a portly annual memorandum summarizing the sales of Mr. Paul Rasteau's embryo department store; and then, too, sundry articles of luxury were freely in evidence. Copper specie is a curious and clumsy medium in many a large transaction before 1730. Records for 1735 and 1736 (card series A 35 and A 36) include an interesting batch of Government contracts for supplies of all kinds, with prices affixed. For an isolated case of bygone prices, a mosquito bar is quoted at 30 francs in 1727, or about its nominal rating to-day. Whether 215 francs for a pigeonhouse in 1726 corresponds to dove cote prices of to-day, one has omitted to investigate. In the same year 1726, 300 oysters are listed at 9 francs.
For a pioneer point by the way, there is reference to clearing new lands by the roughshod process of burning the canes; whence one infers that the place name Cannes Brúlées is literally descriptive, or was. Pioneer documents of more lively interest amid the usual dry style papers are the report of a fire at St. Catherine's land grant in 1725; of a dugout expedition wrecked by snags in 1727 (then reported, the accident happened in 1726; and of some urban pioneer conversation at New Orleans in 1739, where the business dispute in question sounds almost as though taken down by shorthand, or so jotted by the speaker in chief. Other isolated incidents of note are cardinal birds for an exported curio (the correspondent wanted them caged, not wild), and a very early use in transplanted “France" of the ascription American: one Arbaud, returning to Southern France, wished to be addressed “Arbaud l'Amériquain” (1733).
May the cardinal bird remind one, there was no harsh hedge between Church and State in early Louisiana; the State manifestly not only respected but revered the Church; and from the Church side, one brief pronouncement alone should weight conclusively against the widespread popular error, that the “Roman Church" slights common schooling. The Capuchin Superior Father Raphael in 1731, pleaded earnestly for Government aid in starting a common school : popular education being essential in every civilized State in this world. In the later French period, there was distrust, indeed, of the Jesuits, from contagion of the contemporary distrust of them in Europe; but they have recovered their co-ordinated place in the Catholic life of modern Louisiana (Dieu merci). There was no inkling of an infidel French government in Colonial Louisiana: rather it was a very article of credentials of any candidate for the Superior Council, that he was a “practical Catholic.”
A word on the practical future of these humble cards. To leave them buried in their boxes will be burying the index work just as the Black Boxes were already vaulted, out of sight, out of mind. The cards should next be overhauled with a view to sifting and selection. Dead material might be left inert; the matters of real interest should be brought to light.
SHALL THEY BE VENTILATED OR NOT?
If these records belonged to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut (whether at Hartford or at New Haven), New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Illinois or Iowa, such question were needless. Most of the States merely cited in the way of practical illustration would already have the documents in print: in Pennsylvania they would be brought out either by the State authorities, and handsomely bound as well, in the manner of Pennsylvania Archives; or else by the Pennsylvania Historical Society, funded, if I mistake not, by private backers. The latter fortune would also probably befall the Louisiana Records if they were now at Savannah, or in Illinois and Iowa (should State aid be too remote or too sluggishly and obstructively red taped).
At New Orleans the question will settle itself by destructive negation if the records are kept indefinitely at the mercy of dust and decay; because many of them are faded and are continually fading almost illegibly, whereas much of the paper, too, is the worse for wear and tear, crumpling and occasional scorching. Practically, then, the question shapes itself: shall these records be brought out while still available?
Concerning their sufficient value for ventilation at all, the bare fact that they embody the routine transactions of the Superior Council, chief governing body of the French régime in Mississippi Colony from the time of its first planting, should insure affirmative decision before any historical tribunal worth its title. A State or national medical society, in turn, would but imperfectly advance its medical ends and aims by totally ignoring a supposable history, in its possession, of all the pathological cases on record within the circumference of its operations from the year of origin downward.
As above premised, the Louisiana records embody the routine transactions day by day, or session by session, of the Superior Council, chief governing agency, at least, of the French Mississippi Colony; and so far as the indications now point, the same kind of routine procedure will characterize the Spanish end of the records, from 1769 to 1803. If a great proportion of the documentary matter is formally repetitious (and will thus bear plentiful omission and sifting when the results become edited in final style) there is none the less a pervading vein of live material, and very few of the papers will be found lacking in accidents or incidents of permanent human interest, though the primary issue be of lapsed account and no longer objectively significant (unless on the side of actual survival).
Perhaps this hopeful contention can be best supported by a few selective examples of the documentary contents, as digested within library card limits.
Marine Cases. "64"-Petition in Jettison Suit. September 21, 1764.
L. Hollier, master of a schooner cleared from Mobile, had to throw overboard some goods belonging to Mr. Bonille and to Mr. Stuart, on account of a sudden squall. Putting back to Mobile, he was forced by the English Governor to give bond for value of said goods, before he might clear again. He now seeks equitable release from that forced concession. Court allows action, and provides due measures in default of the appearance of Mr. Stuart. (Document ragged). “63” Y2—Invoice of Goods by La Belette. August 25, 1763.
Consignment by Joseph Berard of Bordeaux to P. Durand, merchant at New Orleans. Large variety of items: wine, flour, hardware, hats, household supplies. Document in excellent shape for neatness and form, and may serve as a good exponent of the trade of those times between France and Louisiana. Total invoice, 20,253 francs. “1928”-Inventory of Schooner Catherine. July 13, 1766,
6 a, m. The court officers, on reaching Bayou St. John, “half a league from this town,” did thence betake themselves in a dugout propelled by four oars to the side of the schooner, two leagues distant. The business finished, they “ordered themselves” back to town (they had also ordered themselves to embark in the dugout), arriving about 4 p. m., and about 6 p. m. at their place of residence. (Catherine's Captain is under trial for charges of piracy.) 66 A2—Shippers' Agreement. January 12, 1766.
Gaspard Gardelle charters his vessel Le Soleil, 120 tons, commanded by Captain Dominique Blanc, and bound for Cape Haytien, to Laurent Chouriac for 6,500 francs. Explicit provisors include the conditions of lading, limits of time, precaution against need of lighterage at La Balise, and terms of discharging on arrival at destination.
(Chouriac later figures in a vast suit of claims, appealed eventually to Paris.) 66 A32—Arbitration Report on Broken Raft. May 18, 1766.
Jean Baptiste Leporte and Francois Bijon submit their great folio relation concerning a broken raft belonging to Mr. Olivier and furnished by Mr. Lapointe of PointeCoupée. The raft evidently went to pieces through defective shipment: its uprights had not been bolted. Moreover, 1,666 feet of the wood were found damaged. Sound pieces, 7,245 feet. Sundry corroborating statements follow the report. Councillor Foucault orders transmission of the findings to Lapointe, who shall make his defence. PointeCoupée sheriff notifies Lapointe.
66 A82—Memorandum of Brigantine Renommé. July 29,
1766. Statement of expenses "in the River," June 8—July 29. Items include pilots' fees, chickens and eggs, a pig (at five francs), greens, rice, meat, fish, figs, cucumbers, claret, washing of table linen, bread and biscuits. Eggs are quoted at 25 sous a dozen; chickens at 27 sous a pair. Officially approved, and payment ordered from proceeds of vessel and cargo. Total bill, 480 francs.
65 A155—Exoneration of Captain Raoul, of the St. Jean
Baptiste. October 12, 1765. Councillor Lesassier, assistant judge, finds that Don Carlos Ricardo has maliciously spread false and injurious reports against Captain Raoul; wherefore let Ricardo be fined 200 francs in letters of exchange available for House of Charity.
The suit between Monsanto & Raoul is to be arbitrated. Each party may select a merchant referee; in case of divided opinion, let the Council appoint an umpire.